The phrase ”holding on” is mostly used to describe a positive action, e.g. holding on to a dream or holding on through tough situations. Many songs are written about holding on, images posted on social media to just hold on and even commercials tell us to hold on a little longer. It should be a good thing, right? So is there a time when holding on is not a positive action?
Depending on what you are holding on to, the answer is yes. Many walk about holding on to hurts, pains, old history and baggage that weighs you down. I lost my job so I’m angry at my old boss even though I have a much better job now; my friend said something behind my back even though they sincerely apologized for it; he or she betrayed me and broke our trust even though you’ve recovered and are in a healthier and more fulfilling situation now. The list is as long as Santa’s. It’s somewhat similar to old Marley dragging behind the chain he forged in the Christmas Carol, a burdensome load. However unlike Marley we aren’t doomed to carry it forever.
As believers in Christ we are encouraged to give these burdens to Christ. Scripture tells us to cast all our cares and worries on Him. Christ asks us to trade our heavy loads for His, a much easier and lighter load. The Apostle Paul encourages us to cast off every weight or burden that weighs us down so we can run the race with more ease.
Some walk around with their arms full of all the things they are holding onto. But if your arms are so full of things you won’t let go of, there is no room left for the blessings God is saving for you but can’t give because you can’t carry anything else.
Each Christmas our trees are usually protecting pretty boxes we can’t wait to open. Maybe this year there should be another box, a different one if you will. Some of us may need a really big box. In this box place all your hurts from the past, painful memories, grudges, past failures-anything weighing you down. Close the box and present it as a gift to Christ. I know from personal experience it’s a gift He will be thrilled with this Christmas. Only then will you have room in your arms and heart to receive the good things from Christ that you can gladly hold on to. Merry Christmas!
On July 4th I was walking on the top floor of a local casino parking garage to get a panoramic view of the city’s fireworks displays. I noticed a strange pain in my left foot but kept walking. The pain intensified and by evening I was wrapped in a blanket with chills from the intense pain (it was 105 outside). The next day I could barely walk and by the third day I could put no weight on the foot. Reluctantly I went to the local Quick Care for treatment but multiple x-rays revealed no injury. When offered pain medication I declined, thinking I could just live with it if it didn’t get any worse. It got worse. A couple days later I was back at the quick care begging for drugs. It’s amazing what strong narcotics can do for pain relief. The pain had become so severe I could not think-I could barely communicate-I could not function normally-it was crippling! Upon administering treatment I was back to some level of sanity and could focus on something other than the pain.
We live in a world full of hurting people. Their pain may not be obvious but the hurt is no less severe. We encounter them everywhere we go unaware-unaware because we seldom take the time to notice. The pain they endure may be from a broken relationship with a mate or close family member. They may be that teenager who just can’t seem to measure up to their parents’ expectations. Some suffer the pain of acute loneliness that could be relieved with a simple conversation or visit. Some carry the burden of failed marriages or businesses. Psychologists agree that a man responds to a failed business much the same as he would to the loss of a loved one. I know that to be true. The wife who gives her all to her husband and kids but never receives appreciation or affection from them walks in silent pain. The incarcerated serving time in a lonely cell for one bad and costly decision or act suffers a pain we can’t comprehend. The young girl who thought aborting or giving up her child was the right decision may now be carrying the pain of guilt and regret. The man who lost his family over indiscretions and now sees another care for what was once his suffers a dull pain that may never go away. These are the pains that left untreated can cause one not to think clearly-not to be able to communicate-to not be able to function normally-the unseen pains that are crippling.
How I wish I had the time-the capacity-the reach to embrace these who suffer silently. We all know how our hearts ache when our kids or grandkids cry. We don’t need to know why the tears-we just want to hold them until they stop flowing. How much more does our Savior react to our pain. How cool is it that we have someone to call out to who lived the human experience in the Earth He created so as to empathize with our hurts and our feelings. Psalm 34 tells us that the Lord is always near to those with broken hearts and crushed spirits. Sometimes in the midst of our pain we can’t see or accept the relief that comes from calling out to God for mercy, so we go on through life thinking like I did, that we can live with the pain if it doesn’t get worse.
There are no quick fixes to deep emotional stress carried unseen by so many. However that is no excuse to not be engaged or aware of those around us who may be hurting. It is surprising how many of these people worship with us each week in our churches! I am always on someone’s schedule, running here or there, but I am trying to remember to ask God to help me see others who need a word, a hug or a meal. If you know of individuals who suffer in silence, get involved, go out of the way, send a card, make a phone call, buy them coffee-whatever it requires to just be a presence at a lonely time. We don’t need answers-we don’t need to bombard them with Bible verses. We just need to let them know we are aware of their hurts so some healing process can begin. It’s not about deeds and works and righteousness-it’s about love, about caring, about sharing the burden of pain that is too great or someone to carry alone.
Father, help us see the pains in others that you see and respond as you would with love, with empathy and with presence.